Unique risks presented by pregnancy in young girls

March 1, 2014

Girls who become pregnant when they are aged younger than 15 years are more likely than slightly older women to have much older sexual partners, to not use contraception the first time they have sex, and to be Hispanic or black, suggesting that they may be particularly vulnerable to relationships with unequal power.

 

Girls who become pregnant when they are aged younger than 15 years are more likely than slightly older women to have much older sexual partners, to not use contraception the first time they have sex, and to be Hispanic or black, suggesting that they may be particularly vulnerable to relationships with unequal power.

The findings come from a recent study using data from the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth. The women surveyed were aged 20 to 44 years, but reported on pregnancies that occurred before they were 20 years of age.

The investigators found that 3.4% (289) of the 3384 women who reported a pregnancy before age 20 years had their first pregnancy when they were aged younger than 15 years. The remainder reported their first pregnancies to have occurred between 15 and 19 years of age.

The younger women were almost twice as likely as the older teenagers to be Hispanic, more than twice as likely to be black, and more than 3 times as likely to report that their sexual partners were least 6 years older than they were. They were also 2.5 times as likely to report that the pregnancy was unintended. They were less likely than the older women to have been raised within a religion, to be living with both biologic parents at age 14 years, and to have used contraception the first time they had sex.

The researchers conclude that this group of young women has unique social, family planning, and reproductive health needs and that pediatricians are positioned to help.

According to the March of Dimes, infants born to adolescent mothers are at higher risk than infants born to older mothers for premature birth, low birth weight, and other serious health problems and death. Compared with every other age group, infants born to mothers aged younger than 15 years have the highest risk of death during the first year of life.